Theme: "Support Group" - 12 AA meets in the middle of each theme entry.
23A. Tibetan breed : LHASA APSO. In Tibetan, Apso means "bearded".
24A. Cinematographer's concern : CAMERA ANGLE
30A. First Bond girl : URSULA ANDRESS. Looking for shells?
45A. Orange County seat : SANTA ANA
47A. Max Ernst, for one : DADA ARTIST
55A. Crimson Tide's home : TUSCALOOSA ALABAMA. Marti's husband's alma mater.
80A. "The Voice" coach : CHRISTINA AGUILERA. She is taking a break now. Shakira is in.
87A. Interactive website plug-in : JAVA APPLET
91A. Unusual thing : RARA AVIS
106A. Its largest hub is in Atlanta : DELTA AIRLINES
113A. First Japanese car to be produced in the U.S. : HONDA ACCORD
116A. Mozart highlight : OPERA ARIA. Is there any non-opera ARIA?
69A. Event where the number 12 is important, and a feature of 12 two-word answers in this puzzle : AA MEETING. Their 12-step progress.
I counted 145 theme squares. This is crazily brilliant. Normally we have around 100. Unlike the scrabbly KK's, AA's are easier to deal with, but it takes skill to make the grid so smooth.
Today's constructor Andrew Ries is from Minnesota. I glanced at his website before but never went to "About me". After looking at his picture this morning, I realized he's the host of the Minnesota Crossword Tournament. So I met you, Andrew!
1. Festive occasion : GALA
5. Stinging remark : BARB
9. Italian for "small rolls" : PANINI. I had an eggplant panini once. Pretty good. Hard to make eggplant tasty.
15. Epps of "House" : OMAR
19. One working on figures? : ICE SKATER. Not Weight watchers.
21. Knocked the socks off : AMAZED
22. Goody-goody's "headwear" : HALO
26. Patriotic org. : DAR. Daughters of the American Revolution.
27. Starts the haggling at : ASKS. Is the "at" needed in the end?
29. Powerful perch : THRONE
36. Let the tears go : SOB. Sad. "Nothing Compares 2 U"!
37. In the past : AGO
39. Rocker Young : NEIL
40. Real estate listing abbr. : RMs
41. Palm tree nut : ARECA. Did you want BETEL as well?
43. Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks, e.g. : OWNER. Mark Cuban.
50. Bases-loaded walk stat : RBI
51. Well-stated : APT
54. Literally, "the tar" : LA BREA
61. Mao's successor : HUA. Gimme! Hua Guofeng. He ended Cultural Revolution in 1976. But ousted by Deng Xiaoping in 1978. I remember this poster vividly. The guy in the middle is Hua. Extremely loyal to Mao.
64. Jobs offering of 2007 : iPHONE
65. Former Bears coach : DITKA (Mike)
66. Full or half holds : NELSONs
68. Train-stopping spots: Abbr. : STAs
72. Once, archaically : ERST
73. Texas Hold 'em variety : NO LIMIT
76. Believing in the green-cheese moon, say : NAIVE
77. Smoothing tool : PLANER. Splynter probably uses it everyday.
79. Leveling initials : TNT
84. Rub with oil : ANOINT
85. Evelyn Waugh, but not George Eliot : MAN. George Eliot's real name is Mary Anne Evans.
86. Pujols blasts: Abbr. : HRS. Pujols is Boomer's favorite player.
96. Scare : ALARM
97. Reacted to a massage : AAHED
100. __-de-France : ILE
101. Wolfe who tracks crooks : NERO
102. "Licensed to __": Beastie Boys album : ILL. Doesn't make sense grammatically.
103. Sea-Tac posting : ARR
109. Turtledove : DEARIE
111. Hair disheveler : GUST. Oh, you need So Sexy serum. It smells amazing.
112. Ambulance VIP : EMT
122. Ancient Andean : INCA
123. Just as prescribed : TO A TEE. We often see TO A T.
124. Save a date, say : MAKE PLANS
125. Consider : DEEM
126. Bugs : ANNOYS
127. Flower stalk : STEM
128. Wrist-directed reprimand : SLAP
1. "The Simpsons" real estate agent Gunderson : GIL. No idea. The only Gunderson I know is Jerome.
2. Hamburger beef? : ACH. Ha ha. Ham & pineapple for us today.
3. Shows the way (to) : LEADS IN. Is "to" necessary here?
4. Military attack : ASSAULT
5. Ovine bleat : BAA. MAA too.
6. Men's tennis org. : ATP. Association of Tennis Professionals. And 44D. 6-Down counterpart founded by Billie Jean King : WTA. Women's Tennis Association.
7. Thing in court : RES
8. Like some shoulders : BROAD
9. Lambeau Field pro : PACKER. Quite a few Packers' flags/signs in our neighborhood.
10. Saved up : AMASSED
11. Site of '60s action : NAM
12. Modern ending? : IZE. Modernize.
13. "Darn it!" : NERTS. In Chinese, it's "Ta Ma De", pronounced just like it's written. Urban dictionary has it wrong. It's not the F word. Just "Dammit!"
14. State with a panhandle : IDAHO. Which state do you think is the most popular in Xword?
15. [Gasp!] : OH NO
16. Oscar winner Anna : MAGNANI. Alien to me. Wiki says she won Oscar for "her portrayal of a Sicilian widow in The Rose Tattoo".
17. Asserts sans proof : ALLEGES
18. Fish eggs : ROE
20. Bush advisor Rove : KARL. Big fund raiser.
25. Like koalas : ARBOREAL
28. Mexican Mrs. : SRA
30. Young __ : UNS
31. "Bloom" star Stephen : REA. I've only seen his "The Crying Game" & "Michael Collin" & "Prêt-à-Porter".
32. Ideal for growing : ARABLE
33. OB/GYN test : AMNIO
34. Org. in the film "Sneakers" : NSA
35. Italy's La __ : SCALA
38. Morsel : ORT
42. Very little : A DAB
46. Ireland's __ Islands : ARAN. Stumped me last time.
48. Go out with __ : A BANG
49. Soldat's weapon : ARME. Soldat = Solider. French.
51. "__ sure you're aware " : AS I'M
52. One of Edison's 1,000-plus : PATENT
53. Put in the crosshairs : TAKE AIM
55. Quaint "Not so" : 'TISN'T
56. B.J. or Justin of baseball : UPTON. They're brothers.
57. Commandment verb : SHALT
58. Mozart's "__ fan tutte" : COSI
59. Seraglio room : ODA
60. J.Lo, for one : LATINA
61. Mezzo Marilyn : HORNE
62. Racing great Bobby : UNSER. Brother of Al.
63. Stars at the Forum? : ASTRA. Latin.
67. Official emblem : SEAL
69. Aweigh : ATRIP. And APEAK. Real words in Spitzboov's world. Let's see if we can have a week sans A* words next week.
70. US Open champ between John and Mats : IVAN (Lendl). OK, John McEnroe. Mats Wilander is a stranger to me.
71. Grant-providing gp. : NEA
74. '60s defense secretary : McNAMARA (Robert). No escape from Vietnam.
75. Chain with stacks : IHOP. What's your favorite food at IHOP?
77. Coddled kitty, e.g. : PURRER
78. Crossword-solving Simpson : LISA. This is the episode with Merl Reagle & Will Shortz. Maybe someone can dig out the YouTube clip.
81. At a Lakers home game, e.g. : IN LA. Hi there, Bill, have you ever been to a Lakers' game?
82. Place : STEAD
83. '90s U.N. secretary-general Boutros-__ : GHALI. Boutros Boutros-Ghali. I just found out that Boutros is Arabic for "Peter".
84. River past Berne : AAR
87. Start of a rhyming Basque game : JAI. Jai alai.
88. Finished : ALL DONE!
89. Element's combining power : VALENCE
90. 2011 Liam Neeson film involving a wolf pack : THE GREY. Never saw the movie. Gray wolves.
91. Fjord-like inlet : RIA
92. Pink Floyd album including "Dogs" and "Sheep" : ANIMALS. Very helpful clue.
93. Abdominal : VENTRAL. Also a new word to me.
94. Mad-as-all-get-out state : IRE
95. Tapped-out letters : SOS. D'oh!
98. Gets away from : ELUDES
99. Boozer's affliction : DTS. Delirium tremens. The shakes.
104. Stampede rope : RIATA
105. Casing outing, briefly : RECON. Reconnaissance.
107. Physics bits : ATOMS
108. Spring : LEAP
110. Pop singer Lambert : ADAM. Runner-up of "American Idol" 8th season. Noted for his use of eyeliner.
113. Kept under wraps : HID
114. Crushable container : CAN
115. Native Nebraskan : OTO
117. Search, with "down" : PAT
118. Scratch (out) : EKE
119. Sleep lab acronym : REM. Rapid Eye Movement.
120. TV chef Garten : INA. Love her "Barefoot Contessa".
Guess who this lady is? Don't raise your hand, D-Otto!
121. Cause of Cleo's demise : ASP